By Dana Khraiche
I found this video on Youtube (Video is below) reporting on how Lebanese are unable to introduce themselves in Arabic. When asked to introduce themselves in their mother language, most of them stumbled on a couple of English terms especially when it came to talking about their major studies.
Words such as OK and Hi are not Arabic which seemed to confuse a couple of the interviewees. It’s kind of how I attempt to speak in Arabic and end my dialogue with “Merci.” Ha?!
The whole “Hi, Kifak, Ca Va?” is a problem that we face; we might not see it now but later when our grand grand kids are unable to say anything except for Teta, and that’s not even Arabic, we will have to face Arabic language’s slow extinction in Lebanon.
How did we become a semi multilingual nation? Because really, knowing how to say “Merci, Bonjour, ca va?” is not mastering the French language.
English-based or French-based education is the starting point for any Lebanese kid. It’s a necessity and almost an obligation to place your kids in a foreign-based school with a couple of Arabic lessons which are usually placed out of respect to the country hosting the school.
I have met a couple of those kids, now of a mature age, and the Arabic they know has nothing to do with the real Arabic; it’s even difficult for them to read daily newspapers, imagine getting them to read something from Abou-t-Tayyib Al Mutanabbi; what a horrifying experience that would be! It’s gibberish to them!
Add to that colonization and the dominant western influence because everything that is foreign tended to be cool and hip, and it still is. Globalization has a way of sneaking up on you when you’re all caught up in speaking different languages but your own!
I don’t have kids of my own, yet. But I’m sure I would want them to be multi lingual and just a quick note on that; Lebanese slang is not Arabic and if you are proficient in that and another foreign language; it makes you singularly lingual and perhaps a half.
In other countries, Arabic has become a hot language to learn and here in Lebanon, it’s something so not in style. Heritage, my friends, does not have to be cool to be part of our lives.
I’m one of those kids that suffered through Arabic grammar classes. But just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean it has to be put aside and neglected. This is what makes it unique and in need of preservation; preserve it in our minds, books and daily lives, not on the dusty shelves of libraries.
I support those campaigns to preserve the Arabic language and I advise you to do the same and encourage yourselves, kids or future ones to read in Arabic; it’s part of our identity; our unique identity and neglecting this would result in an identity crisis for Lebanese, not that there isn’t one already!